Hello ladies and gentlemen, Muldoon here with a peek at one of many films playing Fantastic Fest 2015. As with most fests, aside from leaning towards the shorts, I like to watch whatever features come my way, you know… “Be the water, not the rock” as there’s no enjoyment in stressing out about films you “absolutely have to see” regardless of your pre-existing scheduled obligations conflicting. That outlook rarely does me wrong and chances are, if it’s at Fantastic Fest, it’s got something special going on. So I watched THE MISSING GIRL blindly and found myself having a decent time. Was I “absolutely blown away?” Well let’s dig in and find out.
I see a trend in blog reviews where the bulk of the review is essentially walking you through the entire film providing a play-by-play. “And then this happens…” Eh, that’s not really my thing, so I’ll cover what I’d want to read if I were interested in a film, while specifically avoiding giving up too much of key plot points. Nobody wants to be the embodiment of a trailer that gives too much away. So let’s jump on in.
A.D. Calvo’s THE MISSING GIRL is a great black comedy. First up, let the synopsis soak in a little bit:
“Mort, a lonely and disillusioned owner of a comic book shop, has fallen for his new employee Ellen, a smart, aspiring graphic novelist. But a dark past and a missing girl will complicate their story more than anyone can imagine”
Man, that could go just about anywhere, right? It’s a perfect summary to pull you in to the theater, something that’ll toy with you in the back of your head as you watch and just go along for the ride. My mind can get a little dark, so I was quite surprised at the playfulness of the movie. The dialog feels energetic and real, even if at times the circumstances and a character’s decision didn’t. Even though I didn’t, Calvo knew exactly what kind of a film he was making. It’s got clever comic book style paneling (picture in picture) motif that pops up throughout, but at no point did it feel forced or does it beat you over the head with it screaming “style!” In fact, the movie’s style is rather relaxed, like the cool kid at a party. Visually speaking, this film balances highly saturated dream/fantasy sequences and color galore in the main character’s comic book shop with desaturated real world quite well. In other words, to put you in the shoes of the film’s lovable deadbeat, Mort (Robert Longstreet), the filmmakers use color as a tool and wield it with deliberate intention. As the story develops and the characters grow – the colors around them seem to reflect that perfectly. Props to the Art department.
Still on the visuals, the DP did a great job of framing, like utilizing the lines of a bridge in the background to frame within the frame, almost as a comic book’s gutter. The key is, these were decisions that perfectly helped bring you into the story at hand, an incredibly simple and intimate story at that of a guy who is down on his luck shifting his focus from being happy in the moment with who he is and centering his attention on to his new employee. Careful observation, but the man has a beer each night, has issues with money, and employs a beautiful young lady at his shop, which is kind of creepy and masochistic really. Mort’s a bit self destructive in that sense, the only female attention he seems to go for is that of women who are being paid to be around him – his employee, and a brief moment in a strip club.
The young lady, played by Alexia Rasmussen isn’t just a stereotype or a half-written character for the male lead to lust over, but a real character with her own demons who wishes to better her life as opposed to drowning her sorrows in booze and half-assed attempts at living. Without this character in the film, there’d be no story – no growth – nothing for our lead to learn from.
Both Alexia Rasmussen and Robert Longstreet did a great job grounding these characters and making them relatable. While they both do things I don’t think I’d be caught dead doing, I still felt for them both and found myself wishing them out of their bizarre predicaments… if that makes any sense at all. In this role, Longstreet felt like an immediate cousin of Joel Murray’s Frank character in GOD BLESS AMERICA if that gives you any idea of what to expect. Longstreet’s Mort is the poster child for why losing yourself in comic books, porn, and booze can be dangerous if you don’t balance it out with real world interactions.
All in all, I certainly enjoyed the film. I enjoyed the town the film was set in, Kevin Corrigan’s best Watto impersonation as a used car dealer, the acting, framing, and quirkiness of the score/use of title cards. Is it a perfect film? No, it drags a bit in the third act, but overall would I suggest to my friends to seek the movie out? Sure. It’s a feel good dark comedy set around a guy who runs a comic book shop. If you’re around the fest and think this might be for you, it also plays Monday at 11:30. For those not at Fantastic Fest, I’d assume this will go to VOD soon, so you’ll have a chance to check it out soon enough. Fun festival film, not something I’d feel comfortable telling the AICN audience to run out and see in theaters, but certainly think a night in with VOD feels like a good fit.
So check it out if it seems like something you’d be into. Movies are an art form, so take my critiques/praises with the understanding that I’m no authority, just a dude who likes watching all sorts of movies and I enjoyed this one.
- Mike McCutchen